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In-depth reviews

Renault Clio review - Engines, performance and drive

The Renault Clio is good fun to drive and rides well, but some engines aren’t especially strong

The Clio has garnered a reputation for driving thrills over the years that Renault has been keen to uphold; it follows that the current model should offer a good driving experience, hitting the supermini benchmarks for ride quality, handling and performance.

On the road, the Clio feels like a quality product. It seems planted on the move, with positive steering and a pointy front end that turns eagerly into corners. The suspension is well-judged, offering great pliancy over bumps big and small but sacrifices a little comfort in the name of body control. It runs the Ford Fiesta close in this department but ultimately isn’t quite as much fun.

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We’ve tested the TCe 100 1.0-litre petrol, a turbocharged three-cylinder that’s likely to be a best-seller. Unlike most rivals’ mid-range petrol engines, this engine is only available with five-speed manual or CVT gearboxes; our manual test car didn’t miss a sixth ratio, however, thanks to its fifth gear being tuned for motorway use. At 70mph the engine sits at 3,000rpm – not much higher than most six-speed rivals. It’s a quiet engine at speed too, which should help make longer journeys more bearable.

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The gearbox itself isn’t the best in its class; the high-mounted gear lever works well ergonomically but doesn’t have the most engaging gear change action. Changing gear is a more pleasurable experience in a Ford Fiesta or Volkswagen Polo, but there’s nothing especially terrible about the Clio’s ‘box.

We’ve yet to try a Clio with a CVT, but the most powerful TCe model with its 129bhp 1.3-litre engine and dual-clutch automatic is good enough to be considered a warm hatch – the extra performance helps to bring out the best in the Clio’s chassis.

Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed

The entry-level Clio engine is pretty basic – a 1.0-litre three-cylinder with 71bhp and 95Nm of torque, mated to a five-speed gearbox. We’ve yet to sample this engine but reckon it’s best left for low-milage, urban use; outright performance is sluggish (0-62 mph takes 16.4 seconds) and it won’t prove as flexible as its turbocharged counterpart in everyday driving.

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Our pick of the range – the TCe 100 – adds a turbocharger to the above, resulting in 99bhp, 160Nm of torque and a much more acceptable 0-62mph time of 11.8 seconds. It’s not the best small petrol engine in the Clio’s class – the 1.0-litre EcoBoost in the Fiesta feels stronger – but it’s a serviceable choice that blends zippy performance with decent running costs and low emissions. It comes with a five-speed manual as standard but can also be combined with a CVT auto.

The most powerful petrol offering is the TCe 130, a 1.3-litre four-cylinder with 129bhp, 240Nm of torque and a nine-second 0-62mph time. Power is fed through a snappy dual-clutch gearbox which helps maximise performance.

The only diesel in the range is the Blue dCi 85, a 1.5-litre four-cylinder with 84bhp but a hefty 220Nm of torque. It’s the best choice for long-distance drivers and is the only model to use a six-speed manual gearbox; 0-62mph takes 14.7 seconds.

Renault has also introduced hybrid power into the Clio range. The E-TECH Hybrid 140 uses a 1.6-litre petrol engine and an electric motor, producing 138bhp, although the manufacturer is still to confirm exact specifications.

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Which Is Best

Cheapest

  • Name
    1.0 SCe 75 Play 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £14,420

Most Economical

  • Name
    1.5 dCi 85 Play 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £17,020

Fastest

  • Name
    1.3 TCe 130 S Edition 5dr EDC
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £20,020
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